Promise


This Sunday we conclude our series “The Apostles Tale.” To watch/hear previous sermons from this series, click here.

In this closing sermon in the series, we transition from an appropriate conversation about our duties as persons of faith to care for the marginalized and the underprivileged (as Jesus reminds us to care for the hungry and thirsty, as well as the stranger in Matthew 25) to an exploration of God’s promise – a promise made available to all of God’s people.

Romans 9:1-5
1I’m speaking the truth in Christ – I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit: 2I have great sadness and constant pain in my heart. 3I wish I could be cursed, cut off from Christ if it helped my brothers and sisters, who are my flesh-and-blood relatives. 4They are Israelites. The adoption as God’s children, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises belong to them. 5The Jewish ancestors are theirs, and the Christ descended from those ancestors. He is the one who rules over all things, who is God, and who is blessed forever. Amen.

As we have paralleled the novel and Hulu series “A Handmaid’s Tale,” we have explored a fictional dystopian culture in the hopes that we might not only learn about matters of sexism, misogyny and even human slavery, but so that we might see the mere hints of such things within our own culture. In this effort, we become more aware of injustice so that we might speak out for those whose voices have been silenced.

Consider these questions:

  1. As we have become aware of divisions, both in the fictional story from Margaret Atwood as well as in our own culture, how do you observe God working? Does God remain passively uninterested, or does God act? How?
  2. In our own United Methodist denomination, we are experiencing tension and even – from both sides of the argument – calls for division or schism. How can you pray in a way that is most authentic to God’s wisdom?

Post-sermon Update on 8/8

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).

Sunday’s sermon included a critique of the ways Paul’s passage above have been used for purposes to support predestination or to support antisemitism. John Calvin himself wrote in his commentary on Romans 9 in support of “doubled-edged predestination,” meaning that those who are to be “saved” are predestined as such and those who are to be “damned” are predestined as such. I believe this theology is as harmful as the t-shirt I wore on Sunday.

In no uncertain terms, I said – and continue to believe – this: If you’re using our sacred Biblical texts to judge or harm or separate or belittle or devalue others, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!

(Note: I’m not sorry for “yelling.” I feel that strongly about it.)

Paul’s text is not about judging or harming or separating or belittling or devaluing. A faithful reading of these chapters from Paul must be taken in light of what was written just a few verses prior, and if read this way Paul confirms what he has already written: “ I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” (Romans 8:38-39 CEB)

Consider these questions:

  1. How have you seen Biblical texts used to do harm to others?
  2. How does this cause you to respond to those who use the Bible in this way?
  3. How have you seen others respond to the Bible being used in this way?
  4. What can you actively do to bring healing? Not only to those who have felt harmed by persons misusing Biblical texts, but also when you are present when such misuse occurs?

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